Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. (NASB, 1 Peter 1:22-23)
Please do not misunderstand my intention here. This is not meant to be an essay about warm, fuzzy love or the mushy sentiment the world advertises as true love. This is not about abandoning truth and all that is doctrinally sound. This is not going to be a post about compromising theological precision for the sake of a common unity that comes with superficial love and approval of sinful words and deeds. My intent is to turn our attention, as believers, to a broader understanding of what Peter tells suffering Christians scattered in various places.
Before I begin, my desire is to encourage believers to follow the many commands in Scripture which require us to “walk wisely” (Eph. 5:15, Matt. 10:16, Rom. 16:19). All of us should examine what we are being taught with a healthy, rigorous intellect when it comes to following the Bereans’ example (Mark 12:30, Acts 17:11). We, in the church, often become dazzled and mesmerized by ear-tickling sermons about love which has a tendency to puff us up and feed the inner nature of man, particularly if these sermons are centered on our perceived inherent worth and value apart from Jesus Christ.
A focus on love
I hope I have added the necessary discernment and wisdom disclaimers appropriately, because the remaining word count in this brief commentary focuses on God’s wonderful, amazing love and an exhortation to fulfill the greatest person-to-person command. Galatians 5:14 puts it this way: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” Did we catch that—the whole Law is fulfilled!? That’s pretty serious. So how do we start to understand and fulfill this Royal Law command? (James 1:22, 2:8)
The absolute truth about God is that He is love. He is grace, mercy and forgiveness. He is eternally kind and compassionate, perfectly cohesive with His all-encompassing truthful essence and justice. These attributes are not in conflict with each other, but complement each other beautifully and flawlessly. He, in the person of Jesus Christ, is perfectly submissive and obedient. He is humble and meek and lowly.
So why is it, at times, the Church appears to diminish these characteristics and markers of true discipleship for the rally cry of truth? If the church in Ephesus was condemned for elevating doctrinal truth over leaving their first love (Eph. 1:15, Rev. 2:4-5), should we not all tremble at the mere thought of our local church lampstand being removed as well for the same snares? The fact is that truth and love live together in seamless cooperation when patterned according to I Peter 1:22-23.
For me, it starts with recognizing my deficiencies in the past. I have not always held to the Christian standard of these four simple, yet powerful words: “fervently love one another.” The word “fervently” in the original Greek is an adverb which means “earnestly” or “intensely.” As an adverb, it would have more to do with being stretched out, earnest, resolute, and tense or taut.
This fervent love is not something passive. This kind of fervency mentioned here has every idea of actively, daily, and constantly engaging the mind and heart to pursue love for one another. The phrase embodies full, unreserved, actionable love, grace, mercy and forgiveness, molded like the kind of agape love Christ has for us. The Bible is clear. He commands His children to act according to their pedigree.
This is not a call to check our wits at the door and become so innocent and naïve that we are dazzled by anything that is glittery. This is a call to the local church to come back to its “first love” and recapture a warm, affectionate love for one another as described in Ephesians 1:15.
Wise living is not only about discerning the false, but it is also acting in concert and harmony with what the Scriptures call for in Christian relationships. It is not the “straining out a gnat” hyper-criticism that Jesus condemns in Matthew 23. The standard for “loving one another” is wrapped in humility, mercy, patience, long-suffering grace and a host of other biblical principles. We are commanded to be “fervent,” and later, fervent love covers not just one sin but a multitude. A multitude carries the idea of “a great number” or “the whole number.” Just as the communicable attributes of God’s love and justice are being dispensed in perfect harmony, so our joyful slavery should display a Christ-like image when we love and submit to one another out of a holy fear for our Master.
Jesus gave a “new command” to love one another and it is, in fact, the ultimate mark of His true disciples (John 13:34-35) which is really an extension of an old commandment we had from the beginning. (1 John 2:7-11). Christ is the supreme example of this type of servanthood (Phil. 2:5-8).
Biblically speaking, there are a dozen or so different analogies that God uses to describe our life here on earth. Military terms might be the most well-known. It is no mistake that while we are soldiers marching and warring, it should not be against each other, but against sin: rebellion, unsubmissiveness, disobedience, pride, anger, arrogance; and militarily standing firm against outside and inside attacks of demonic agendas. If we keep this in mind, we could “put off” many of the sins that tempt us when trying to live amidst the troops. Within the “boastful pride of life” arena, we can find it far too easy to cross the line into devouring one another. (1 John 2:16, Gal. 5:15)
Dr. Rick Holland posted this as his status update a few weeks ago on Facebook: “Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy (James 2:13). Praying to be a man without accusations against anyone.” I hope the triteness of the medium does not detract from the poignancy of the post. The essence of brotherly love is filtering through mercy and grace while using discernment as we advance and grow together.
So let us march on following King Jesus our Lord and Savior, denying ourselves, daily picking up our cross, and following Him (Luke 9:23). The only true way to obediently follow Christ and be conformed to His image is to trust Him with every aspect of our lives, including godly displays of sincere and fervent love for the brethren. 1 Peter 1:22-23 is clear: all those born of imperishable seed will have a truthful and purified, imperishable love for everyone who follows Jesus Christ.